The Gifts of Letting Go
In the Vedic tradition, the path to freedom and happiness lies in letting go of attachment. This doesn’t mean renouncing your desires or living the life of an ascetic. Instead, you set an intention then relinquish your attachment to the outcome. The Bhagavad Gita states,
Yoga is perfect evenness of mind. Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness. Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do. When consciousness in unified, however, all vain anxiety is left behind. There is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill. Therefore, devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action.
At bottom, attachment is based on fear and insecurity. When you forget your true Self – which is pure consciousness, pure potentiality – you begin to believe that you need something outside of yourself to make you happy.
It’s easy to think, “I’ll feel good when I have X amount of money in the bank, lose 15 pounds, find my soul mate, pay off my bills, or (insert your current desire here). As you’ve no doubt discovered, getting what you want doesn’t bring security. At a deep level, you know that whatever is bringing you happiness can be lost and therefore has the potential to bring you pain.
According to principles of yoga, the only way out of this dilemma is releasing your attachment to outcome. In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, this is known as the Law of Detachment, which says that in order to acquire anything in the physical universe, you have to relinquish your attachment to it.
The search for security is actually an attachment to the known, and the only thing that is known is your past. The known is simply the prison of your past conditioning. The unknown, on the other hand, is the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom.
Practicing the Law of Detachment
You can apply the Law of Detachment to your yoga practice by making a commitment to the following three steps:
- Practice detachment. Let go of your attachment to achieving a “perfect” posture and instead have the intention for your practice to deepen your awareness. Yoga is not a competitive sport and you won’t attain integration of the mind, body, and spirit through force and effort. It may seem paradoxical, but by relinquishing your attachment to an idealized pose, your body will naturally release its resistance and become more flexible.
- Embrace the unknown and watch how creative solutions to problems spontaneously emerge. Realize that the more uncertain things seem to be, the more secure you will feel, because uncertainty is the path to freedom.
- Step into the field of all possibilities by staying open to an infinity of choices. As you flow through your asanas, you can also practice the mantra that resonates with the Law of Detachment, reminding you to release the need to control:
Om Anandham Namah
(My actions are blissfully free
from attachment to outcome.)